Beyond “Oh God, This Hurts!” – A Spirituality of Birth


IMG_6023Round One: Mom versus Birth. When I was expecting our first baby, my thoughts about childbirth went like this: pain pain pain how am I going to handle the pain how bad will it hurt why does everyone keep telling me horror stories please don’t let me die from the pain pain pain.

A typical first-time mom, I was terrified of the unknown. Somewhere on my “to do before baby comes!” list I had scribbled down “prayers for birth?” hoping that a handful might give some comfort. But then my water broke three weeks early, and the rest was history.

Round Two: Mom through Birth. When I was expecting our second baby, I listened to a piece of advice that I’m sure my own mother tried to tell me the first time around: don’t fight the contractions. The intensity of labor was my own body’s strength, working to bring my baby into the world.

As the day of delivery drew near, I tried to focus on the fact that I didn’t need to fear or fight what would happen. Having been through birth before, I knew I would come through it and new life would be waiting on the other side. And the delivery went better and faster and stronger than I had hoped.

Round Three: Mom and Birth. Now that I am counting down the weeks till baby #3 arrives, I find myself approaching our due date with unexpected companions: joy and eagerness. Sure, part of my readiness springs from a desire not to be nauseous every morning and exhausted every night. And I’m more at peace with the prospect of what a day (or two!) of pain will bring because I know it is part of what being a mother means.

But more importantly, I’m starting to see the spiritual side of birth in ways that I never would have dreamed when I headed to Labor & Delivery for the first time. Birth as beginning, birth as sacrifice, birth as rite of passage – God is intimately wrapped up in all these ways we understand this work that women do to bring life into the world.

As an added bonus for Round Three, I’m treating myself to a mini-retreat on the spirituality of birth, offered by Catholic mother, doula and childbirth educator Peg Conway. (If you live in Minnesota and want to join us in March, click here for more details!)

Before this pregnancy, I read Peg’s book Embodying the Sacred: A Spiritual Preparation for Birth. She inspired me to start thinking about how I could prepare bit by bit, trimester by trimester, for the big birth day that will once again bring me face to face with God when I meet our child for the first time. Being intentional about this process – a sort of sacramental preparation – has helped me to bring hope, not fear, to the prospect of bringing another baby into the world.

Lots of ink gets spilled in parenting manuals and glossy magazines about birth plans, birth preparations, even identifying your health care provider’s “birth philosophy.” But approaching a spirituality of birth invites those of us who carry new life within us – as well as those who love and care for us – to view this work as prayer and to place our trust in God who accompanies us from the first contraction to the final push:

“Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.”

Psalm 22:9-10 

Question: How has viewing birth spiritually helped you through labor and delivery? What is your favorite Scripture passage for childbirth?

Copyright 2014 Laura Kelly Fanucci


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  1. When I was laboring I focused on the Divine Mercy icon I had brought and I just kept visualizing the “fountain of mercy” from Jesus’ side. It was still painful 🙂 but also beautiful. Thanks for sharing such a lovely piece!

  2. Love this! As counterintuitive as this sounds, I think one way I tried to embrace the spirituality of my labor and delivery was in simply allowing myself to feel everything at hand. (That doesn’t mean I went au naturale…I begged for the epidural when the pain got bad, haha). For me, some kind of prayer or Bible verse actually felt like a frustrating distraction, and so I just let myself be present to labor, offering it as a prayer for a specific intention I’d had on my mind earlier, and then went back to screaming and contracting. I ended up finding a lot of spiritual fruit in just allowing myself to experience labor raw and reflect on it afterward.
    After my daughter’s birth, my priest came and performed a special rite that we have in the Byzantine church for moms postpartum. I was so exhausted that I don’t remember much, but I’m sure there was grace from it!

    • Meant to conclude by saying that I think the real spiritual gift of labor is knowing I’m learning to love better by having to go through so much pain for my child. All of that pain is worth knowing I’m learning to do exactly what we are called to: love.

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